The Flawless Generation

When I was growing up, I was acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses.  Not only because I practiced self-awareness  and lead an introspective life, but because my parents and teachers helped me understand them.  Knowing my weaknesses gave me an opportunity to address them if I wished, or, in my case, focus in on my strengths and refine them even further.

Which is why I can’t understand the way kids are being raised.  Every student deserves an A and a 4.0.  Every child deserves a trophy and to be on the same team as the prodigies.  And don’t you EVER communicate to a child that they are bad at something.  Because, you know, you can do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be if you try hard enough!

That’s absolute bullcrap.  I tried very hard and I couldn’t be a professional athlete.  I’ve tried very hard to be a novelist but don’t have any compelling stories to tell.  My girlfriend wanted to be a doctor but could not grasp chemistry, no matter how hard she tried.  My best friend has practiced painting his whole life but just isn’t a natural at it and struggles to create what he wants.

People have limitations.  EVERYONE has limitations.  Some people are destined to be professional football players, but very few are destined to be a football player and an aeronautical engineer.  Even fewer are destined to be a football player, aeronautical engineer, and an accomplished sculptor.

Some people are much more limited than others.  The correct way to react to that is to help them understand their limitations and find what they can excel at while also enjoying their lives.  The incorrect way is to tell them they can do anything they want.

The WORST thing you can do is to devalue the truly talented by rewarding them in the same way as inferior performers.  In school I quickly realized that getting an A in math doesn’t necessarily mean you’re good at math.  It could easily mean you are just okay at math but you did every bit of extra credit offered and showed all your work.  If you are a mathematical genius and you receive the same grade as someone who is just barely comprehending the material, why would you ever be proud of your grade?

An ‘A’ needs to mean something, it needs to stand for something.  A trophy needs to be rare and significant.  A ribbon should set you apart, not lump you together.  If our very best are not rewarded for their talent and cannot stand out because of it, then they will not cultivate it. In the same vein, if you buoy someone’s hopes by continually telling them they are great at something when they are really just average, then you are setting them up for failure and disappointment when you could be spending that time actually discovering their true talents.

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